Pursuant to the President's speech last night, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released detailed memos regarding administrative relief for millions of immigrants in the United States. The highlights include:
1) Expanding the DACA program to anyone brought to the United States before the age of 16 (regardless of their current age) who entered the United States on or before January 1, 2010. The deferred action and work authorization will now be granted for 3 years, instead of 2 years. The program will not benefit those who are included in the DHS's updated enforcement priorities (see below for more information on these priorities). Applications under the expanded DACA program will be considered on a case-by-case basis beginning no later than 90 days from the date of the announcement (November 20, 2014). Applications fees will continue to be $465.
2) Creating the Deferred Action for Parents (DAP) program for the parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents. DAP eligibility requires that these parents have been continuously residing in the United States since January 1, 2010, be present in the United States on November 20, 2014 and on the date that they request deferred action, and have had no lawful immigration status on November 20, 2014. DAP participants will receive deferred action and employment authorization for 3 years. Like the expanded DACA program, DAP will not include individuals who are listed in the DHS's enforcement priorities. Applications under the new DAP program will be considered on a case-by-case basis beginning no later than 180 days from the date of the announcement (November 20, 2014). The application fee will be $465.
3) Expanding the Provisional Waiver program (also called the 601A program) to children (both minor and adult) and spouses of lawful permanent residents and to the adult children of U.S. citizens. This program allows beneficiaries to apply for a waiver of their unlawful presence before they leave the United States, minimizing the amount of time they are separated from their families when applying for their permanent residence at a consulate.
4) Changes to Employment-Based Immigration: The program proposes changes to the way employment-based green cards are distributed. It also proposes extending the time that students with science-, math-, engineering-, and technology-related degrees may engage in Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation, and potentially expanding the types of degrees that graduates can hold when requesting OPT. This is an important step in helping non-citizen graduates of American universities contribute their skills to the American economy. Additionally, the program should improve the ability of talented and educated individuals to obtain immigration status without an employer sponsor. Some of these reforms are targeted at helping inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises. Finally, the reforms include a directive that USCIS should clarify the standards for certain employment-based visas and to clarify when someone who is waiting for an employment-based visa to become available can change employers without endangering their green card process.
5) Finding ways to make the naturalization process more accessible to lawful permanent residents.
6) Ending Secure Communities - a program linking local law enforcement databases and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apprehension efforts. Secure Communities has engendered grave mistrust of local law enforcement within the immigrant community. The program has become very unpopular with local politicians and police, who suffered from strained relations with the immigrant members of their community. A new program will be developed, with an emphasis on prioritizing the apprehension of individuals who come within the ambit of the DHS's new enforcement priorities.
7) Increasing the effectiveness of border security efforts.
8) Expanding parole-in-place and deferred action for undocumented parents, children, and spouses of individuals seeking to enlist in the armed forces.
9) Possible pay raises for ICE officers
10) Revised enforcement priorities for ICE, which are now divided into three classifications. Priority 1 consists of individuals who are suspected of terrorism or espionage, individuals apprehended at ports of entry trying to illegally enter the US, individuals convicted of gang-related offenses, and those convicted of felonies or aggravated felonies. Priority 2 consists of individuals who have been convicted of 3 or more misdemeanors, individuals convicted of a significant misdemeanor (i.e. domestic violence, DUI, burglary, sexual abuse, drug trafficking, firearms possession) who were sentenced to 90 days or more of jail time, individuals who illegally entered or reentered the US and who have not been continuously present in the US since January 1, 2014, and individuals who have abused the visa and visa waiver programs. Priority 3 consists of individuals who were issued a final order of removal on or after January 1, 2014.
A summary of the programs with links to more detailed descriptions of many of the President's actions can be found on the USCIS website: http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction
Details about the benefits for relatives of those seeking to enlist in the military can be found here: http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/14_1120_memo_parole_in_place.pdf